"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on August 5, 2018 by Sioux under General
5 Comments

 

I slept in, had a late breakfast and after a quick pit-stop at The Encore, a restaurant in an 18th century building, I went to meet my tour-host. We had arranged to meet at the most appropriate venue – The Royal Shakespeare Theater.

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Having not been able to go in the previous day, I was glad of the opportunity to see something of the inner areas.

 

The 1,018-seat Royal Shakespeare Theatre still retains many of the art deco features of the original 1932 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, and after a three-year transformation project, was re-opened in 2010.

 

A smaller and more intimate theater, The Swan seats only 426 people, and was opened in 1986. A magnificent building from the outside, it was even more beautiful on the inside. Although we were not able to get into the heart of either theatre, I was shown around the front-of-house areas. 

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Above a stairwell leading to the Swan Theatre is a massive sculpture made from 2-thousand metal stars and is said to represent the Bard’s obsession with time and his preoccupation with stars. 

 

Each individually made star hangs on a separate wire strand, all shaped to create a mask-like face.  

We stood on an outside deck for a while, watching a pair of ducks fighting for food or territory – or both. Eventually they tired of their watery debate and went their own separate ways. As did we, and made our way along the river bank towards Shakespeare’s Church.

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Built on the site of a Saxon monastery, with parts of the building dating back to 1210, the church is Stratford’s oldest building and one of England’s most visited churches, due to being the final resting place of William Shakespeare. He was baptized there in 1564 and buried in the beautiful 15th-century chancel in 1616.

The church still possesses the original Elizabethan register, which is safely stored offsite, giving details of his baptism and burial. His wife Anne Hathaway is buried next to him along with his eldest daughter Susanna. 

Above Shakespeare’s grave a stone slab displays his epitaph: GOOD FRIEND FOR JESUS SAKE FOREBEAR, TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOSED HERE. BLESTE BE YE MAN YT SPARES THESE STONES, AND CURSED BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES.

 

It is said that the warning has served to prevent both the removal of Shakespeare’s body to Westminster Abbey and the exhumation of his body for examination. 

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IMG_0054a-LR-(1-of-1) Shakespeare's funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church
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Mounted in a wall niche is a bust of  Shakespeare. The funerary monument is thought to be the only sculpture of the great man, in colour.

Carved under the canopy roof arch of one of the three

canopies of sedilla (seats for the presiding clergy) hides

a 15th century carving of the face of Jesus, which survived

damage during the Reformation. The stone carving can only be seen via the reflection in a well placed mirror. It is thought to be a Vernicle, a representation of the image imprinted on St Veronica’s handkerchief, as she wiped the face of Christ on his route to the crucifixion.

Hall’s Croft, the Jacobean home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her physician husband, was a short walk away so we made that our next stop. Hall’s Croft was built in 1613 and for most of its history, has been inhabited by prosperous, professional people and also served as a small school in the mid-1800’s. It has been beautifully restored using period furnishings and was opened to the public in 1951. 

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From there we headed to what is probably the ‘mecca of literature lovers’ – a beautifully restored 16th-century half-timbered house believed to be the birthplace in 1564, and childhood home, of William Shakespeare.

 

A relatively simple home now, back then it would have been quite substantial and the residents believed to have been rather well off. The house was originally divided in two parts to allow his father to run two businesses from the same premises. 

Constructed in wattle and daub around a wooden frame, as was customary, the house is not an architects dream in any way. Originally a simple rectangle, it was built using oak from a local forest and locally sourced blue-grey stone. The large fireplaces were made from an unusual combination of early brick and stone, and the ground-floor level has stone-flagged floors. The ground floor was mirrored on the first-floor by three chambers accessed by one staircase in the hallway. 

Glass windows, inscribed with the signatures of visitors to the house over the centuries are among the displays.

 

Some famous names in literature and the theater, including Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens scratched their mark on these panes for all eternity!

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The bedroom where William Shakespeare is believed to have been born.

We sat out in the stunning gardens entertained by a group of thespians doing what they do best, the great Bard himself keeping a watchful eye on proceedings, from an upper floor window.

The gardens have a number of statues and busts, including one commemorating Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu; both masters of drama and art. It was donated by Fuzhou, the Chinese hometown of Xianzu.

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There is also a large bust of the great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, born in 1861. Tagore penned a poem in honour of the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Our next stop was ‘The New Place’, William Shakespeare’s final place of residence where he died in 1616. Apparently the second largest dwelling in the town, the house was totally destroyed in a fit of rage by the 1759 owner. The large area is now a tourist hotspot, with sunken gardens and specifically commissioned, and somewhat gaudy, artworks in a park like setting. 

Refreshments at The Dirty Duck pub ended a fabulous day out,

and once I had bid my host farewell, I headed back to my

accommodation.

 

I wanted an early night as I was planning on being up very early the next day, and walking to where Anne Hathaway lived as a child. 

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His Mind’s Eye, a magnificent bronze tree sculpture is placed where the Shakespeare’s family living quarters once were, with its branches sweeping over a massive sphere, polished bright on one side, and in shadow on the other.

 

The sculpture is said to depict the dynamic force of Shakespeare’s imagination. 

 

5 responses to “People usually are the happiest at home – Stratford upon Avon #2”

  1. Charles Twigger says:

    A wonderful memory of your visit! Your expert photographs and the accompanying text enable me to see again with your eyes the marvellous views buildings and artifacts which I am surrounded by Well done A terrific travel blog!

    • Sioux says:

      Thanks Charles. I enjoyed catching up with u again and your knowledge on the area certainly made my trip enjoyable! Definitely must plan a return visit!

  2. Karen Reyes says:

    Exquisite! I spent two months in Stratford upon Avon and this display brought all the wonderful memories back again. Thank you so much Charles and Sioux.

  3. Cheryl Wilkinson says:

    Excellent Info and photos love your blogs! Thanks for sharing S!

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